Model scouts in Brazil are looking for the next Gisele Bündchen. They have figured out that the genes of girls who look like a model in the way she does — with light skin, light hair, and tall, naturally thin figures — come from German and Italian ancestry and may also have a dash of Slavic blood. While more than half of Brazil’s population isn’t white, more than half of Brazil’s models are scouted in a southern rural region comprising about one-twentieth of the nation’s population. Gisele and Alessandra Ambrosio, who were discovered at 13 and 12 respectively, come from these parts.
The region is proud of its reputation for hotness. But Brazil as a whole — more than half of which is black — is also proud of its hotness. Frustrations have emerged over the world not recognizing all of Brazil’s skin tones as beautiful. While Brazilians embrace beauties with darker skin, the fashion industry in the rest of the world gravitates toward paler Brazilian models.
“I was always perplexed that Brazil was never able to export a Naomi Campbell, and it is definitely not because of a lack of pretty women,” said Erika Palomino, a fashion consultant in São Paulo. “It is embarrassing.”
Scouts have begun looking in darker-skinned regions, but they have a long way to go. Prosecutors recently forced São Paulo Fashion Week to make sure that at least 10 percent of its models were of African or indigenous decent. In 2008, 28 of the 1,128 models in the event weren’t white.